I was born at Millpost, Millpost Lane, Bungendore NSW in 1991. Millpost Lane has been my home for 29 years, including seven years of commuting to Bungendore Primary School along the lane. In 2017 Mum penned this evocative description of Millpost Lane for an article in PIP magazine.
Up in the hills east of Canberra, there’s a dusty lane that takes you along the flat Molonglo Plain, past dozing racehorses standing in thick phalaris, wild apple trees and thickets of plum and hawthorn, winds up the Lake George escarpment through old Yellow Box woodland full of all kinds of large and small birds such as finches, thornbills, cuckoo-shrikes, kookaburras and robins, until at the top you reach a rusty old gate with a stencilled sign that says “Millpost”.
I saw my first Kites, Pipits and Red Rumped Parrots there. In the Autumn some years we would see Gang Gangs feeding on the red Hawthorn berries, and Rosellas in the fruit trees that line the lane. Driving home in the evening after footy training or my guitar lesson we would see foxes, rabbits, wallabies, hares, roos, wombats and sometimes little marsupials flash across in front of the headlights. In late summer I remember stopping by the road to pick fruit from the seedling apple tree (if the Rosellas had left any for us), the result of a tossed core years before.
The lane was home to a few farms in the early 20th century; Auverne, Wave Hill, Brooklyn, Millpost - Sheep, cattle, horses and even Emus were a common sight in the paddocks that lined the lane. New houses sprung up over the following century, Yer’tiz, Wattle Hill and Culverhayes.
At some point in the 2000s they gave us all numbers. Millpost became 312 Millpost Lane, Bungendore NSW. Looking back, this was representative of the change that came over the Bungendore plain around the time. Millpost Lane had gone from a collection of places with names, to real estate.
This year we have felt the burden of this change more than ever before. Mum and Dad have spent months fighting the wholesale shredding of trees, habitat and natural history in Bungendore. All under the banner of development and growth. Last week the shredder came to Millpost Lane and shredded our apple tree. It also shredded the plum and hawthorns and many endemic trees planted at Culverhayes by the Todds, who sold up a few years back.
The reasons? I’ve heard fire and snakes mentioned as justifications for the new owners to “clean up” the landscape. Both draw on a very human fear, disempowerment. At its heart, this is a fear of the unknown. Obsessive fear of snakes is a pertinent example of our society's alienation from the natural world. In the last 10 years in Australia no more than 3 or 4 people have died on average each year as a result of snakebite. If choosing to move to the countryside for a lifestyle change, perhaps worrying about how much more time will be spent on the road commuting would be a more reasonable fear - you’re several hundred times more likely to be killed by a car than a snake.
And of course fire, a fear many Australians are feeling now more than ever. After the worst fire season on record that particular fear might not be a bad thing, I only wish our politicians were fearful enough to be taking serious action on the climate crisis.
But experience teaches us plenty about fire. We know that deciduous trees (hawthorns, apples and plums included) create a fire break - not a hazard. In fact at Millpost we have done quite the opposite. Our homestead zones are now surrounded by hundreds of deciduous trees, which in the height of summer form a cooling green barrier, protecting from sun, wind and (fingers crossed) fire. I recently learnt also that many of the plantings at Culverhayes were designed as fire breaks, to slow the movement of a firefront.
Permaculture advises us to look for solutions that work with nature, not against it. We can start by connecting with our natural surroundings. Spending your whole life in the same place is a shortcut to loving your environment, but paying it close attention and spending time curiously and actively absorbing the goings on in your ecosystem is just as good. Watching a place grow, getting under its skin, meeting what lives in its soil and its branches breeds a love and understanding of its ecology that changes our world-view.
Unfortunately the new owners on Millpost Lane who have wreaked this havoc haven’t been here long enough for me to get a chance to tell them about my closest call with a snake. One summer recently I napped under the wattles next to our big dam after a swim. I was woken by a flurry of little birds chattering above my head, scrub wrens and fantails firing warning calls, the kind you hear when there’s a cat in the garden. My ears pricked up at the sound, and I soon heard a rustle in the grass next to my head: a big tiger snake. As I leapt up, adrenaline pumping, it shot off into the wattles. I can't say if the birds were warning me or just their own brethren, but I know a lifetime of listening to the birds paid off. I'd rather have both than just one, and when you shred the snake habitat, you shred the bird habitat too.
Murray Watson - 6/10/2020